FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The U.S. women’s national team breezed through CONCACAF qualifying to secure a spot in the World Cup next year in France.
The Americans still have to face Canada.
“Just because we qualified for the World Cup doesn’t mean we’re going to take our foot off the gas,” Alex Morgan said. “We want to win this tournament and we always think of playing Canada as an important game for us.”
Morgan and Tobin Heath each scored twice in the first half and United States earned a World Cup berth with a 6-0 victory over Jamaica on Sunday night in the semifinals.
Heath’s first came in the first two minutes of the match and she added a second in the 29th. Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Morgan also had first-half goals as the United States built a 5-0 lead.
Morgan’s second goal was a penalty kick in the 84th minute.
Canada, ranked No. 5 in the world, also clinched a spot in France with a 7-0 victory over Panama in the earlier semifinal at Toyota Stadium.
The top three finishers in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship represent the region in France, so the winners of both semifinals earned a berth before the final.
The title match between the United States and Canada and the third-place game are set for Wednesday in Frisco. The fourth-place finisher will face Argentina in a playoff for a spot in France.
“This is obviously going to be a different change of pace for us in this tournament because we haven’t faced a lot of shots from other teams, from opponents. But I think it will be good for us. We want to play the best teams in the world and Canada’s continuing to evolve and play well,” Morgan said.
The top-ranked United States is the defending champion of the sport’s premier event, having won the final in the 2015 World Cup against Japan. It was the team’s third World Cup title.
Jamaica, ranked No. 64th in the world, is still vying to become the first Caribbean nation to go to a World Cup. The Reggae Girlz upset Costa Rica 1-0 in the group stage before routing Cuba 9-0 to finish second to Canada in Group B.
The island nation re-started its women’s national team program in 2014 after a six-year hiatus, boosted by the support of Bob Marley’s oldest daughter, Cedella Marley.
Coach Hue Menzies said the match against the United States was a good test.
“We came ready to play five games, and we’re playing five games. So it’s a big plus for our program. Obviously we’re trying to create some history. We’re still on track,” Menzies said.
The United States has dominated the competition in the tournament. The team averaged six goals a game in its group stage, winning all three matches. They took 114 shots, far more than the second-best team in the field, Canada (77). In their final group-stage match, the U.S. women outshot injury-depleted Trinidad and Tobago 59-0.
The United States outshot Jamaica 26-1.
“We feel good right now. Like I said, the competition has not been very good, so we have to take it with a grain of salt,” Rapinoe said about where the team is at right now. “I think we’re moving the ball quicker, not hanging on to it too long, sharing it, a bunch of different people are scoring. We got a lot of different kind of goals today, too. … It’s clicking right now. It’s pretty good.”
Morgan’s goals tied her with Canada’s Adriana Leon for the tournament lead with six.
Morgan has 16 goals for the United States this year, and she has 23 goals in her last 23 matches. She has 96 career goals.
Heath, who spent much of 2017 and the beginning of this year sidelined by injury, has seven goals in seven starts this year. Her second goal of the night came on a spectacular serve from Portland Thorns’ teammate Lindsay Horan. On the run, Heath smashed it past Jamaica goalkeeper Sydney Schneider.
“They’re at another level,” Menzies said about the U.S. team. “Another level from us. It’s something we can learn from. The best game that we played so far was a loss to Canada, we learned a lot from that. So we’ve got to take these situations and add them into training and see if we can solve those things and use them against Panama.’’
The match slowed down in the second half, played in a steady rain. But the thunderstorms that had been forecast never materialized.
Seventeen teams have earned trips to the World Cup. There are seven spots yet to be determined.